Ideological Renewal and Nostalgia in China’s “Avant-garde” Legal Scholarship


This Article examines certain attempts in Chinese legal scholarship to formulate alternatives to “Western” or “liberal” rule of law ideology. The Article discusses three different strands of contemporary Chinese “avant-garde” legal scholarship: (i) neo-conservative critical scholarship, which builds on American legal realism, critical legal studies, and critical social theory; (ii) a form of New Confucian virtue-based legal thought, which combines traditionalist Chinese ethics with Western virtue ethics; and (iii) certain communitarian rule of law theories. The Article identifies a paradox in the premise of Chinese avant-garde scholars’ ideological renewal project: avant-garde scholars can only hope to create illusions of ideological change, often through nostalgic arguments, lest their proposals appear too unrealistic or outlandish.


legal scholarship, China, avant-garde, rule of law, ideology, Confucius, ethics, virtue, communitarian



Samuli Seppänen (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)



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